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This page was last updated on: 23 October, 2012
Augmentative Communications

The main function of an assessment is to determine whether an individual with speaking and/or writing impairments requires augmentative communication assistance. The appropriate augmentative communication system is selected to meet the needs of the individual, and an intervention plan is developed. During an assessment, an individual's communication needs, as well as his or her capabilities, are evaluated in order to implement the assistive technology as soon as possible to enable the individual to begin immediate communication interaction.

Identification of Communication Needs
Identification of an individual's communication needs is essential to selecting the optimal augmentative communication system for that individual. The first step in the assessment process is to determine an individual's present communication behaviors. The following is a list of areas that the speech pathologist evaluates in order to determine these behaviors.

1. Oral Speech
- The actual production of words.
2. Linguistic Knowledge
- The understanding of language received and expressed.
3. Reading & Writing Ability
- The interpretation and generation of written symbols.
4. Cognition
- The ability to recall information, reason, problem solve, and follow directions.
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5. Non-Oral Communication
- The use of gestures, signs, facial expressions, body language, and current augmentative communication usage.
6. Communication Effectiveness
- Types of messages sucessfully communicated.
7. Communication Partners
- Ways to communicate with familiar and unfamiliar partners.
8. Communication Settings
- Contexts in which communication devices will be used (i.e. school, work, home).
9. Message Needs
- Ways to initiate, comment, request, convey, or reply to conversation.
10. Developmental & Educational/Vocational Needs
- Literacy development.

By assessing the individual's present ways of communicating, the speech pathologist can determine the communication limitations and needs the individual may have. Therefore, the speech pathologist will be able to recommend the most appropriate augmentative communication system.

Capability Assessment
In order to assess an individual's capabilities his or her motor, cognitive, and sensory skills must be thouroughly evaluated. The following paragraphs focus on each of the capability assessments in more detail.

Motor Skills Evaluation
During the motor skills evaluation, an individual's current method of mobility is assessed in order to determine the optimal positioning of an augmentative communication device in relation to a wheelchair, scooter, walker, etc. Next, range of motion in the upper and lower extremities is evaluated in order to select the most appropriate control interface given an individual's abilities.

Cognitive Skills Evaluation
Typically a psychologist performs a cognitive skills evaluation to determine an individual's memory, comprehension, visual and preceptual skills, vocabulary, sequencing ability, problem solving skills, etc. The speech pathologist will then apply the results to determine an individual's communication limitations and needs, as mentioned previously.

Sensory Skills Evaluation
An individual's auditory and visual abilities are assessed during the sensory skills evaluation. It is very important to determine how well an individual can see the symbols on an augmentative communication device and whether or not they may need magnification aids. Many augmentative communication devices also provide the user with auditory feedback. Therefore, it is essential to determine whether or not a user can hear the feedback signals.